In a big reveal earlier today, one of the UK's biggest consumer watchdogs poured even more scorn onto the energy market as they announced the Big Six received over 5 million complaints in 2013. Which? followed their announced by saying the energy market in the UK was "broken" and that a full investigation was essential. This comes after Energy Minister, Ed Davey called for an investigation by Ofgem into a potential monopoly of the market and adds to the media tension currently surrounding the energy giants.
In such a large industry its natural for a certain level of complaints to trickle through the system, particularly in the event of widespread flooding and people getting disconnected as we saw at the end of 2013, but 5.5 million is not a figure that can be ignored. Npower were apparently the worst off with 1.4 million complaints, a new record for the company. EDF were next, followed by British Gas who Davey targeted earlier this week as potentially monopolising the market after it was revealved they had a 41% share and had charged the highest prices for three consecutive years.
UK energy, who look after the concerns of the Big Six and other energy companies, admitted after the report that "changes were needed" but also commented that the industry as a whole deals with around 27 million customers and that it was only natural for some things to go wrong. They defended companies like Npower, saying that all energy companies do their utmost to make sure that all customer complaints are responded to with nothing more needed than a simply phone call. They also highlighted a number of changes that were already being made by energy companies across the board.
Ovo Energy, an independent energy company who have picked up considerable steam since the image of the Big Six energy companies took a hit, took the opportunity to speak out and gain some further public support. Stephen Fitzpartrick, their chief executive, revealed that Ovo had reduced their prices by 2.5% in light of a milder than expected winter - something the Big Six were urged to do and refused earlier this week. Is it too much to ask that savings are passed onto customers when wholesale prices decrease due to lack of demand?
Fitzpatrick also commented that the bigger energy companies' profits depended on long term customers who "couldn't be bothered" to switch or weren't sure how to. One of the main things Ed Davey is hoping to achieve in the coming months is a more efficient switching system which will allow households to hop between suppliers with just a few days notice. This is precisely what the market needs and could just be enough to stimulate some much needed competition.